The FIA World Touring Car Championship could switch to the TCR International Series’ technical regulations next year which could result in the rival series’ merging, it has been revealed.
Despite the 2017 championship season has arguably been the best since the category’s rebirth in 2005, the series lost two manufacturers – LADA and Citroën – in the preceding off-season and is struggling with shrinking grid sizes.
Currently Honda and Volvo are the series’ sole manufacturer-backed entries – the former running a ninth-generation Civic FK2 model it no longer sells – while the rest of the grid occupied by privateer Hondas, the ex-works Citroëns and LADAs and a handful of aged RML-developed Chevrolets.
The series currently runs under TC1 regulations since 2014, which have failed to propagate outside the championship. The cars are proving incredibly expensive to run for privateers and unattractive to wide-scale manufacturer investment. A field of just fifteen cars entered the season-opening round in Marrakech, with the peak being just 18 runners in the Guia Race of Macau.
The WTCC had explored a move to adopt the DTM-Super GT ‘Class One’ regulations in 2019, which was rejected by the current manufacturer and privateer operations.
By contrast, the low-cost TCR concept – founded in 2015 by the WTCC’s former series boss Marcello Lotti – has proven to be a popular growth market, with its International Series championship supported by thirteen regional series around the world.
It is understood that an agreement will be reached to license the TCR’s regulations to the FIA for a two-year deal, mirroring the deal already in place which sees the WTCC’s feeder series, the FIA European Touring Car Cup, to run on existing TCR regulations.
Maintaining both the WTCC and TCR International Series would prove impractical given they would be in direct competition for teams and TV coverage, however.
This has led to a landmark move to merge the two championships and strengthen the touring car platform as a whole by combining TCR’s low-cost technical regulations with the marketing and broadcasting expertise of the WTCC promoter Eurosport Events.
While the formal agreement is yet to be concluded or announced, it is rumoured that the new series will become the FIA WTCR. Factory-backed entries would be banned to maintain TCR’s customer racing model, meaning the series would become an FIA World Cup championship and lose its current FIA World Championship status.
An official announcement is expected in a matter of weeks.
Images via FIA WTCC and TCR Media
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